PBL: Saina suffers loss as Mumbai enter final

Han Li turned out to be the star performer of the evening for Mumbai Rockets as she shocked World No. 2 Saina Nehwal 15-8, 13-15, 15-7 in the crucial women’s singles match (the trump match for Warriors). The win helped her team take a 3-0 sweep over Awadhe Warriors in the second semifinal of the Premier Badminton League at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Friday night.

Saina Nehwal's movement was hampered due to a foot injury.   -  Rajeev Bhatt (File Photo)

Han Li turned out to be the star performer of the evening for Mumbai Rockets as she shocked World No. 2 Saina Nehwal 15-8, 13-15, 15-7 in the crucial women’s singles match (the trump match for Warriors). The win helped her team take a 3-0 sweep over Awadhe Warriors in the second semifinal of the Premier Badminton League at the Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Friday night.

The 27-year-old Chinese shuttler, who has a 1-2 head-to-head record against the lead player of Warriors, meant business straight away in the first game when the champion Indian shuttler quite never really stretched herself, preferring to pick the points with the odd smashes.

Though Saina, playing her first match in front of her home crowd in this edition, showed her class in the second game by being more attacking and picking up points with a series of impressive down the line strokes, it was increasingly becoming clear that she was in some discomfort and consequently the movements were not fluent.

In the decider, Han Li raced away to a convincing 8-4 lead and never really looked back as she combined half-smashes with some delectable drops at the net. Sensing that Saina was struggling a bit, Han Li engaged her in quite a few rallies to tire out the opponent and interspersed them with beautiful cross-court drops.

And, when Han Li clinched the issue, there were celebrations in the Rockets camp quite expectedly even as a disappointed Saina led her team out of the venue.

Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen give Mumbai lead

In the mixed doubles match, Bodin Issara and Christinna Pedersen gave a winning start to Warriors with a brilliant come-from-behind victory over Kamilla Juhl and Vladimir Ivanov.

In a match which could have gone either way given the high-voltage display by both the combinations, it looked as if Kamilla and Ivanov would get the better of the opponents when they fought back from a 7-11 deficit in the decider to inch close to victory with a 13-12 lead. But, then Ivanov missed a simple net dribble and then hit his smash out to the delight of the opponents who came back strongly into the game just in time to clinch the deal.

In the men’s singles, World No. 20 H. S. Prannoy ensured that Mumbai levelled the scores with a remarkable comeback after seemingly looking ordinary in the first game when S. Tanongsak clearly dictated terms with a perfect blend of big smashes and delectable drops.

But, it was a complete turn-around in the next two games as Prannoy came up with a much better net game, and more importantly got his lovely cross-court returns in. A clever change in strategy when Prannoy confined his opponent to the net did not give World No. 33 Tanongsak the liberty to go for the big smashes. On the other hand, it was Indian shuttler who was brilliant with some splendid net dribbles, catching the opponent off-guard repeatedly.

In the men’s doubles match, Mathias Boe and Vladimir Ivanov of Rockets scored a big, surprise win over Bodin Issara and Cai Yun, the latter being a four-time world champion and an Olympics gold medallist in doubles. This was a crucial win for Rockets, which clearly put pressure on the opponents before Saina's game.

Mumbai Rockets will take on Delhi Acers in the final in Delhi on January 17.

The results (T indicates trump match): Mumbai Rockets bt Awade Warriors 3-0 (Kamilla Juhl & Vladimir Ivanov lost to Bodin Issara & Christinna Pedersen 15-12, 13-15, 14-15; H.S. Prannoy bt S. Thanongsak 12-15, 15-7, 15-9; Mathias Boe & Vladimir Ivanov bt Bodin Issara & Cai Yun 15-10, 12-15, 15-13; Han Li bt Saina Nehwal 15-8, 13-15, 15-7 -T).